Busan’s premiere reggae, funk and soul band One Drop East are finally coming up to play in Seoul, not once but twice! They have picked one of the busiest weekends in recent times, with Green Plugged, the World DJ Festival and the Seoul Jazz Festival all taking place, but that is no excuse not to see them this Friday (May 17) - their show is on late just so you can see what many people in Busan and the rest of Korea have been talking about over the last few years. We sent a few questions to bassist Brian Kilrain so that you can get to know the act prior to their debut Seoul performances.
- Please tell us a little bit about One Drop East.
One Drop East started in 2006 and is one of the longest lasting foreign bands in Busan. It began as a way for us to hang out with the people we love and cover the music that brought us together – all reggae with an emphasis on the stuff out of New Zealand, ska, funk, soul and jazz. Little by little, original songs started making their way onto the set lists. After we won the 2009 Busan Battle of the Bands, we decided to put together an album, On Home Ground, which came out in 2011. Recently we’ve been getting offered larger festival gigs which has made the last few summers extra fun. Otherwise you can find us most Saturday nights jamming on some stage in Busan.
2. What makes Busan so conducive for great live music?
Busan’s live music scene is phenomenal. Part of it has to do with the fact that we’re blessed with so many great musicians. The rest of the credit goes to club owners like Kim Dongha at Vinyl Underground who bend over backwards to give us a place to play. Every night of the week there’s an open mic or show. And if not, chances are people are getting together somewhere for an impromptu jam.
One of the things I love about Busan is the fact that there aren’t separate Korean and foreign scenes. Our size is small in that we pretty much know everybody making music in town, yet big enough to allow creativity and learning to flourish.
Last year, there was a World Music Night where players could showcase some music from their home country. We had music from Spain, Brazil, Haiti, Germany, Nigeria, and Jamaica. It was an amazing night, and stuff like this happens organically all the time!
3. Tell us about some of your most memorable gigs.
Every time I step on stage with this band, I feel blessed. The most memorable show – the one we all still talk about to this day – was back in 2010 in Daejeon. It was one of our first festival gigs so we rented a bus, filled it with our friends and went on up. About an hour before we were to go on, the police shut it down – right in the middle of Apollo 18′s set if I remember correctly. For about two minutes, we were crushed. But then we found a club down the street, Yellow Taxi, that would let us play.
Meanwhile, all the people who had showed up at the rock festival were getting ready to riot. A lot of people had traveled had from all over Korea to hear some live music and they weren’t just going to leave without politely and constructively telling the cops what they thought of the whole deal. We put the word out to the Busan peeps about Yellow Taxi and they started spreading the word to everyone else.
Pretty soon an army of out-of-town music lovers were in cabs trying to find Yellow Taxi. It’s kind of tucked away from the main road so the band members started escorting people there. I had an orange light-up traffic wand and did my best department store parking attendant impression.
Less than an hour after the plug was pulled at the festival, we had a packed-out club down the street and all the time on stage we wanted. The thing I remember best is that we played with some kind of fury that night. Every band member was buzzing on the exact same wavelength and it just felt so damn good.
4. You are well known for great covers – what are some songs/artists you do?
Currently, there are eight members in the band, and that means eight wildly different musical tastes. Miles Davis, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Flaming Lips, Led Zeppelin, Boyz II Men, it’s crazy. When we choose a cover, a lot times we try to play it differently from the original. Usually that means giving it a reggae feel. We used to do a fun reggae version of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” We love playing any Bob Marley, and the irony that we’re a bunch of dweeby 30-somethings attempting some of the groovingest music ever made is never far from our thoughts. But sometimes we find the pocket. A large chunk of our cover songs come from Kiwi bands like the Black Seeds, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Katchafire. Anytime we do a cover, especially a Bob tune, it’s an opportunity to study the craft of reggae music. In those instances, we’re just students diving as deep as we can into what we love.
5. Who writes your originals?
Very few of our originals were completely written by just one or two members. Creation is all about collaboration. Someone comes to practice with an idea – it could be an entire melody with words or it could be a piece of a horn line or bass line. We throw out ideas and try them to see what works. It can be chaotic sometimes but it works for us. In fact, we’re just coming off a particularly fruitful creative burst and we’ve been happy with the crowds’ reactions so far.
6. Tell us about your gigs in Seoul this weekend?
It’s amazing we’ve been playing music together for so long and we haven’t yet played Seoul. But getting eight to ten people with regular jobs and families to do anything collectively is next to impossible.
This weekend we lucked out with the holiday and decided to take advantage of it. Originally, we were asked to play the New Zealand Wine Festival. The band was able to make that show, which is Saturday so we tried to book a club gig too. Club Ta already had a show going on early Friday but they graciously offered us the stage afterwards, hence the late start time.
So Friday is our Seoul debut at Club Ta. A friend hooked us up with Oops Nice and we’re lucky to have them open. Also, Gino Brann, one of Busan’s musical gems, will start the night off performing some music he recorded last year in Nepal. He’ll also be joining One Drop East to lend his sublime lead guitar to the mix. It all starts at 11:30pm.
Saturday is the New Zealand Wine Festival at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. This is exciting not just because of our Kiwi roots, but it will be a special show in that we’ll be playing it entirely acoustic. I’m lugging my upright bass to Seoul and our drummer will be downsizing to a djembe. We’ve had a lot of fun preparing for it. Songs we’ve played for years have suddenly taken on a different vibe. That goes from 4 – 8 pm and there’ll be, obviously, lots of great wine and food to enjoy as well
7. You have played all around Korea, but not as often in Seoul as we would like – how can we get you to come here more often?
Putting together these road trips isn’t easy. We turn down shows all the time because of scheduling issues as many members have families and day jobs. Plus, travel costs for eight or nine people can be outrageous. For all the people that would like to see us more in their city: seeing a One Drop East show should be one of those obligatory things people do when they visit Busan. The ideal trip should include raw fish at Jagalchi, passing out on the sand in Haeundae and shaking your ass to ODE.
8. What are your plans for the rest of 2013?
2013 has started a bit slow gig wise, but we’ve been writing a lot and have a ton of new material. We recently absorbed the incredible Violet Lea into the band so I’m excited to see where her many talents take us. She’s a classically trained vocalist so, half-jokingly, one of her first assignments was to learn the song “Uptown Top Ranking” by Althea and Donna. This song is about as down and dirty Jamaica as it gets and she kills it.
We’ve got enough material for a second album and we’re still creating. Writing and recording the first album was a great experience but I think we’re going to change it up for the second one and make it live. We really play best when the audience is dancing and sweating along with us so that’s the natural next step.
Finally, festival season is approaching! We love playing outdoors and on a big booming sound system. Hey, Ansan Valley Rock Fest – call us!
9. Any last words for potential fans out there?
I know this weekend is jam packed with music options. Green Plugged, Seoul Jazz and the DJ festival are all going down. Then, of course, Hongdae is always full of great music. But if you’re reading this, I’d say get warmed up wherever you like, but finish your night rocking with us. One of the things we pride ourselves on is our marathon sets. New Year’s 2011 we kept the crowd grooving until 4:30 in the morning. We go as long as you keep dancing.
It’s all up to you Seoul! The ball’s in your court. We’ll do our part – all you gotta do is show up.
One Drop East play at Club Ta on Friday May 17 from 11:30 pm with support from Oops Nice and Busan’s Gino Brann. Cover is 5,000 won. Check out the Facebook event page for Friday’s show here. And there’s an event page for Saturday’s show as well here.